Can I File a Claim If I Was Hurt in a Crash and Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

woman-hands-with-white-pants-clicking-seat-beltIf you were hurt in a car accident while not wearing a seat belt, you may assume that you cannot file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the person who caused the accident. However, in the state of California, there are laws that allow injury victims to file a claim even if they were not wearing a seat belt.

If you are concerned that your accident claim may be impacted by your not wearing a seat belt, contact an experienced Sacramento car accident lawyer at the Arnold Law Firm. We can discuss this issue with you during a free consultation.

California Seat Belt Laws

California law requires drivers and passengers to wear a seat belt when the vehicle is in motion and children must be restrained in proper car seats or booster seats.

Violating California’s seat belt law can result in a minimum fine in the amount of $162 for an adult who is not buckled or $465 for a child under the age of 16.

If you are injured in a car accident while not wearing a seat belt, you may still be able to recover compensation from the negligent party who caused the accident. However, your financial recovery may be reduced.

What is the Seat Belt Defense?

The seat belt defense may be asserted by the defendant or the defendant’s legal counsel. The defendant may claim the amount of damages the victim suffered would have been substantially lower if he or she was wearing a seat belt. They may argue that you should not receive financial compensation for something that was – at least partially – your fault.

It is important to understand that California law specifically states that failure to wear a seat belt does not prevent you from filing a claim for damages stemming from the accident. You can still pursue a claim.

However, the court will determine whether your injuries could have been avoided by wearing a seat belt. Only those damages that could have been avoided can be excluded from your recovery. You may still be eligible for compensation for other injuries you suffered.

The jury may be instructed to consider how you, by not wearing your seat belt, affected your injuries. If the insurance company is successful in proving that your failure to wear a seat belt caused most of your injuries, it may drastically reduce the amount of compensation you receive.

Arguments Against the Seat Belt Defense

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, there may be a variety of legal arguments that your lawyer may be able to make, such as:

  • Failing to wear the seat belt did not cause the accident, so a victim should not be punished for another person’s negligent behavior.
  • Failing to use a seat belt did not go against the requirement to mitigate damages, which can only be done after an accident, not at the time of the accident.
  • Plaintiffs should not be required to anticipate the negligence of others.
  • It cannot be accurately determined what injuries would have been sustained had the plaintiff worn a seat belt.
  • Seat belt tests using dummies cannot accurately reflect the damages the plaintiff may have suffered.

Contact a Knowledgeable Lawyer to Learn More

If you were injured in a car accident, you may be eligible for financial compensation for property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages – even if you were not wearing your seat belt at the time.

Contact the Arnold Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation. We can discuss your case and your legal options.

Call us today to learn more (916) 777-7777.